Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Times - They Are Changing

Times – They Are Changing

As time goes along things change.  Sometimes for the better and sometimes not.  When we talk about things being different than they formerly were, I like to differentiate between change and progress.  Change just means not the same as it was and progress means it’s changed for the better.  As usual I’ll let you decide which is appropriate.

Over the years it’s been my pleasure to judge the CC of A National on three occasions and my good fortune to go Best of Breed twice.  On all five of these occasions it was a one day show with judging going on for dogs and bitches at the same time.  You tried to stagger your entries so you didn’t get caught with two in different rings at once.  In early shows we had futurities where you nominated a bitch’s litter before the pups were whelped.  This was eventually replaced with sweepstakes and now we have puppy class awards.

The point of futurities was to have enough faith in your skill as a breeder to put your money where your mouth was.  It was similar to horses where they nominate for the Kentucky Derby, Breeder’s Cup, etc.  The sweepstakes was something where you could enter any puppy without pre-nomination and gave people a chance to evaluate their pups until entries closed.  Both systems had their supporters.

The National has now grown to a week long event if you want to take in the whole thing.  In addition to the conformation classes and obedience, we now have herding, agility, and a variety of activities with something for almost everyone.  The size of the entries have grown to the point where it takes multiple days to judge and the social aspect has exploded.  In addition to the annual meeting and dinner, we have the Quarter Century Group the Collie Health Foundation, The top Twenty Competition and breeders, judges, and/or grooming seminars.

The CC of A at one time hosted yearly seminars with speakers from allover the country.  Held in the summer when most dogs were out of coat they gave us a chance to learn while not having to worry about the dogs.  Acconeus Collie College in Connecticut and the CC of MD also offered excellent chances to learn and talk about breedings, judges (Oh,boy) and many other things.  Alas these have gone the way of the Dodo bird.

When I first got serious about Collies my mother bought me as a Christmas present a subscription to one of the best dog magazines at the time:  Dog News.  This was not the Dog News of today, but was published monthly by Alice Rosenthal from the same building that housed the Foley Dog Show Organization.  My first issue was the December 1953 issue and had a blue merle Collie and blue merle Sheltie from Ronas Hill Kennels in Canada on the cover.  If my memory is correct the Collie was Ch. Blue Minstrel of Ronas Hill and the Sheltie Ch. Blue Flag of Ronas Hill.

Dog News featured different breeds each month and Collies (which were very popular) always got the Christmas issue.  They had excellent columnists such as W.R. Van Dyck (Honeybrook) and Oren Kem (Lodestone) and had numerous advertisements.  Though the Collies were always first with me, I got to see the best of many other breeds, the breeders, and the handlers.  You also could see who was judging and read about their opinions.  The ads featured stud dogs and litters of puppies for your consideration.  Today’s magazines (of which I get many because of being a judge) seem to be geared toward influencing judges more than anything else and some of the wording is ludicrous.  The idea of describing a judge as the “esteemed” so and so is a bit much.  Most pictures show the judge smiling at the camera as is the handler and some of the handler’s outfits are skimpy to say the least.  It would be nice to see judges and handlers looking at the dog instead of posting as in a screen test.

In addition to some weird outfits on handlers, the judges also have gone over the top.  Male judges are often seen in tuxedos and the ladies have evening gowns slit up the side no doubt to look sexy.  Pardon this old dinosaur, but the focus is supposed to be on the dog not the people.  It may be time to re-evaluate some of our priorities.  Do we want a social event for the enjoyment of people or an experience that promotes better dogs?  Years ago I learned that the best handlers were those who knew how to do the little things that help the dog take center stage while they hid in the background.  Which are you?

Think About It!

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